#Idiom: Pleased as Punch & #Idiom: Horse of a Different Color

It’s been a while since I blogged about an idiom, so I selected “Pleased as Punch” and “Horse of a Different Color” for today. Idioms come and go, usually without notice. Then, one day, you think about one and realize you haven’t heard it said in a long time. It’s probably been replaced by a new one.

“Pleased as Punch”

“Pleased as Punch” is a saying I heard growing up, but I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard it. It’s probably been decades. I had no idea how it came about. I thought it was just an example of alliteration that caught on as a saying.

I also didn’t know that “Punch” was supposed to be capitalized. Again, I thought it came about only because “Pleased” and “Punch” both started with the same, strong “P” sound. Shows what I knew.

I recently learned that this idiom dates back to the mid-1800s and the character named Punch in the Punch and Judy shows. According to The American Heritage dic-tion-ar-y of Idioms,by Christine Ammer, Punch “is always happy when his evil deeds succeed.” (Images of a smiling Donald J. Trump, Sr. come to mind.)

Now, I know, and so do you. File this tidbit away in case you’re ever a contestant on “Jeopardy” or “The Chase.”

“Horse of a Different Color”

Photo credit: Gene Devine on unsplash.com

This idiom popped into my head last week, and I realized I hadn’t heard it said in quite some time. Curious about its origins, I reached for my trusty reference book, The American Heritage dic-tion-ar-y of Idioms,by Christine Ammer, which I purchased for either fifty cents or a dollar several years ago when the public library was drastically weeding its collection.

The saying, “Horse of a Different Color” or “Horse of Another Color” means, “Another matter entirely, something else,” according to Ms. Ammer’s book.

She goes on to say that, “This term probably derives from a phrase coined by Shakespeare, who wrote, ‘a horse of that color’ (Twelfth Night, 2:3), meaning ‘the same matter’ rather than a different one. By the mid-1800s the term was used to point out difference rather than likeness.”

My conclusion

It seems we don’t hear as many idioms as we used to. Is that a result of the homogenization of American English? Society presses us to drop our regional accents. As a southerner, I’ve felt that, and it makes me sad. I think our regional differences in our speaking make the United States a more interesting place to live. I hate to see us losing those little differences. I hear it in the voices of my great-nieces who live in Georgia. My accent is much more southern than theirs even though they have lived in Georgia their entire lives. It makes me sad.

Since my last blog post

My blog post today is short and light-hearted because I’ve been spending every spare minute (when not reading!) to work on my family genealogy. My sister and I are working on a project that we want to finish this fall. Time is not on our side!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have one or more good books to read and a rewarding and relaxing hobby.

Make time to read and enjoy that hobby. And, by all means, make time to enjoy family and friends.

Remember the people of Ukraine and Uvalde, Texas.

Janet

#Idiom: Reading the Riot Act

Just so you’ll know, I wrote this blog post, except for the “Since my last blog post” and “Until my next blog post” a month or more ago when I had no idea there would be an attempted coup at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. There had been rumors of political demonstrations in support of the man who lived in the White House until he moved to Florida on January 20, but I had no idea it would be a day of insurrection against the United States of America.

#Insurrection #FailedCoup
Photo Credit: Little Plant on Unsplash.com

The word “riot” does not adequately describe what happened on January 6, 2021. The word “riot” is far too tame to use in talking about that event. What happened that day outside and inside the US Capitol was not a riot; it was an act of domestic terrorism, an insurrection, and attempted coup incited by the man poorly-holding the office of president of the United States at the time.

Nevertheless, the following gives some of the background for the “Reading the Riot Act” idiom.

Reading the Riot Act

Have you ever wondered where the idiomatic expression, “reading the riot act” and its variations originated? I’ve heard the expression all my life, but I couldn’t have given a definitive answer if asked about its origins. As I’ve said before, the evolution of the English language fascinates me, so this will probably be the first of many blog posts I’ll write about idioms.

Another reason for my interest in idioms is, as a writer of historical fiction, I must be careful not to use a word or phrase in a story set at a time before that particular word or phrase came into usage. For many years, I’ve relied on English Through the Ages, by William Brohaugh, to guide me in the use of individual words and their meanings through time. Published by Writers Digest Books in 1997, this is an invaluable resource for writers of historical fiction.

However, I’ve recently come to know the book, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms: The Most Comprehensive Collection of Idiomatic Expressions and Phrases, by Christine Ammer. That collection of idioms and idiomatic expressions has opened my eyes to a whole new aspect of my need to be mindful of the use of words and phrases as I write fiction mostly set in America in the 18th and 19th centuries.

I’ve been surprised over and over again by the advent of some familiar idioms. And it’s made me feel old to find so many have only just come into general use during my lifetime. English is an ever-changing and evolving language.

What’s an Idiom or Idiomatic Expression?

An idiom or idiomatic expression is a group of words in usage whose meaning is not self-evident by considering the individual words.

If you’re familiar with the expression, “reading the riot act,” you probably know its meaning. According to The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms: The Most Comprehensive Collection of Idiomatic Expressions and Phrases, by Christine Ammer, to read the riot act means to “warn or reprimand forcefully or severely.

It is thought that the first use of the figurative phrase “read the riot act” in print was in William Bradford’s Letters in 1819. This idiom has been in common use since the early 1800s, but exactly what was the riot act that inspired the expression?

The Riot Act of 1714

There was much unrest in Britain early in the eighteenth century. There were riots in 1710, 1714, and 1715, and the existing laws were inadequate to control the situation. The Riot Act of 1714 gave local officials a proclamation that was part of an Act of Parliament to read to a group of 12 or more people who were illegally assembled.

Here’s the wording of the proclamation that had to be read:

“Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God Save the King!”

You may recall the reading of Miranda Rights I blogged about on December 21, 2020 — Who said the world would end today? — . In like manner of police officers reading the Miranda Rights to a crime suspect in the United States today, a magistrate, mayor, bailiff, sheriff, or justice of the peace in Britain had to read the Riot Act in an effort to break up an unruly crowd. But that’s where the similarity ends.

The Riot Act of 1714 mandated that the people had an hour to disperse or otherwise be charged with a felony. The punishment for noncompliance was the death penalty! That was also the punishment for anyone interfering with the reading of the proclamation.

In actuality, if an assembled group’s rabble rousing escalated, the authorities didn’t have to wait an hour before making arrests.

What precipitated the Riot Act of 1714 ?

Parliament passed the Riot Act in 1714 – the same year George I became King of Britain – and it took effect in August 1715. The Crown feared that Jacobites (Scottish Roman Catholics – mostly Highlanders — who wanted to return James II of England and VII of Scotland and his descendants to the throne in London) would overthrow the government. In fact, the Jacobites invaded England in 1715 and again in 1745. They were eventually defeated at the Battle of Culloden. If the Jacobites had been successful, Roman Catholicism would have become the official religion throughout Britain. But I digress.

Was the Riot Act of 1714 always effective?

Of course not. I found the following two examples:

(1)        There’s conflicting information regarding the act’s effectiveness in 1839 at the Newport Rising. Some reports say the mayor was able to read the entire proclamation, while other reports say he was shot was attempting to read it from a hotel window; and

(2)        It is thought that the last time a sheriff tried to read the Riot Act was at the Battle of George Square in Glasgow, Scotland. People were protesting for shorter work hours on January 31, 1919. There was a confrontation with police. While the sheriff attempted to read the Riot Act, the piece of paper was grabbed out of his hands by protestors. That was apparently the proverbial last straw for the Riot Act of 1714.

According to the UK Parliament website, The Riot Act of 1714 was repealed in 1973, but it hadn’t been enforced in more than a half century. A version is still on the books in Canada.

Since my last blog post

I checked several weeks ago to see just how many blog posts I’d written. Much to my surprise, today’s post is my 500th. Yes, five hundredth! Thank you to those of you who have stuck with me through thick and thin since my first blog in 2010.

Joseph R. Biden has been sworn in as President of the United States, and Kamala Harris has been sworn in as the first female and the first person of African and Asian descent to the office of Vice President of the United States. I think the world took a collective sigh of relief at 11:49 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on January 20, 2021. I know I did!

I had a bit of a health scare last week, which prompted me to get an appointment on Saturday for a Covid-19 test at a local pharmacy. I’m feeling much better now, so I’m fairly confident that the results will come back “negative.” Better safe than sorry, though. I was pleased with how easy it was to schedule the test. Too bad it’s not as easy and timely to schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine. I believe that’s improving, though, here in the United States.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read or a good book to write.

Find your passion and make time to pursue it in a creative way.

Wear a mask and get the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as you can.

Thank you for dropping by my blog today.

Janet